Featuring advice from inspirational parents who run and soon-to-be mums & dads.
My wife has recently given birth to our second child. A boy, we have called George.
When I started running 3 years ago, my daughter was 18 months old. So returning to running, after the birth of my new born son, is a new experience.
Selfishly, this article is actually for me. I wanted to seek advice from other parents, who have the benefit of this experience.
I asked inspirational parents from the Instagram running community to share their thoughts and wisdom on how best to resume running after the birth of your child.
The featured mums & dads share their individual running stories. We discuss running during pregnancy, priority changes after baby arrives and how each of the parents have approached a return to running.
For a wider perspective, soon-to-be first time running parents also share their hopes and initial thoughts on how running may change and look after baby.
Hopefully, by sharing this advice below, it will benefit not just me, but you and other new parents coming back to running too:
Featured inspiring running parents:
Click the quick links below to jump to a runner’s story…
(and ↑ Back to top at the end of each story to return to these quick links):
- Sophie Power
- Marcus Brown
- Danny O’Reilly & Jordan Foster
- Austin Sheppard
- Lizzie Dimond
- Dom Shaw
- Anthony Turner
- John Cook
- Lindsay Armitage
Anything can happen – you have no idea how your body will change and every pregnancy is different. I stopped running at 7.5 months with my first and 5 months with my second. I’m blogging this pregnancy (sophiepower.com) every few weeks so everyone can follow how I’m making frequent tweaks to my training as my body changes.
The main thing is to focus on the end goal – a healthy baby and a healthy mum at the end who can restart her running journey. That meant for me in my second pregnancy stopping running early to protect my pelvis and pelvic floor. But not running doesn’t mean not training! There is so much you can do with lower impact – treadmill at an incline, stairmill, cross trainer, cycling and more and don’t forget strength work and pelvic floor. Its all about being strong for pregnancy, strong for labour and strong for being a mum.
As much as you want to you cannot plan or have fixed ideas as to what will happen. Some women feel great running the next day (!) others may take months to get back, as I did with my first. There are now brilliant return to running guidelines which can help guide you:
I would also recommend seeing a qualified women’s physio 6 weeks postpartum to get a proper check on where you are and put together a plan to strengthen where you need to before starting to increase training.
Many women recover and become physically able to run again, but the real barrier is finding the time. When you have a small baby to care for, it can be very hard to take time for yourself as there always seems to be something to be done! Partners need to step up and actively give you that “me” time – whether its going for a run or walk or getting your nails done.
You also need to ask for help – instead of visitors being a drain as you try to tidy the house and make them tea and cake, instead ask them to watch the baby for an hour whilst you take some time for you (or just have a shower in peace!).
When my kids were born, I spoke to my coach and we agreed that family is the priority, so there was no strict training routine to follow. We agreed that I’d have no workouts and any runs would be easy and at set distance, because it would take away from helping my family.
Typically there’s less sleep so there’s no point adding stress to the system. Once things were more settled at home and you could get a fairly decent-ish sleep then that would be the point to return to full training.
I work with my coach, to review my training on a week by week basis and we would review how things were going at home and what training I could do. So I would advise that it’s an individual thing as to when you return back to full training for you. Some may want to return earlier and some may want to return later. Do what’s right for you.
Ultimately the priority has to be the mother and your child. Prioritising family time and running goals, requires clear communication to make things work.
So as a result I would run intermittently around what the family needed, and it was a window of time to clear my mind. Which is a benefit of running easy.
Danny O’Reilly & Jordan Foster
Normally at this stage of the year I’d be embarking on a 16 week marathon plan, plotting a PB attempt, booking tune-up races, and worrying about my dodgy hamstrings…but this is 2020. Jordan and I were due to tackle Comrades, London and Berlin marathons this year, as well as numerous other events, however those intentions were scuppered well before the pandemic when we discovered we were having a baby.
As we edge closer to the arrival of our first child, Track Tuesday has been replaced with online interactive hypnobirthing lessons, parkun with NCT classes, and the ads I receive on social media are for bottle sterilisers, not carbon-plate running shoes. Life is about to get real.
Apart from the countless purchases, and suffering bank balance, the only personal preparation I’ve ticked off is an extensive array of dad jokes and the cultivation of an ever-expanding dad-bod.
Did you know; a steak & kidney pie is £2 in Jamaica and £3 in the Bahamas.
These are the pie rates of the Caribbean.
So apart from worrying about how on earth I am going to look after this tiny little creature when I still don’t know how to use our microwave, or change from Netflix to live channels on the television, my thoughts have turned to how I will incorporate running into my new life.
For the immediate future we’ve pulled out of all races. Jordan for obvious reasons, and myself as I don’t want the unnecessary stress, with the due date sandwiched right in the middle of Autumn marathon season. Something else I’ve learned is the due date is a massive guess and is actually a 5 week window, so I’d prefer to be contactable and close to home for that month, not sprinting down the Mall and trying to book an uber to the hospital.
When life returns to some normality and I’m back in the office 5 days a week, my plan is to incorporate the vast majority of my training in run commutes. Run commuting was how I first caught the running bug as I’ve never much liked getting on the tube – the combination of being a tight Northerner and how stressed it would make me through being regularly late for work, while crammed into a tiny carriage with scores of agitated commuters.
A running inspiration of mine, and father of two; Liam McIntyre (@layruns), manages to integrate his tempos, long runs, hills and intervals into his commutes to work, thus maximising his time at home with this family, and I intend to copy him – I want to be home supporting Jordan as much as possible and replace the Northern line and club sessions with solo training runs while en route to work.
In terms of events, we know we will be heavily scaling these back. When we met, at the finish line of a half marathon funnily enough (Jordan comfortably beat me in a sprint finish), our lives revolved around running and every weekend was a race of sorts – we’ve been very lucky to travel the world doing our chosen hobby. From now on we’ll need to be much more strategic, one of us runs while the other parents – marathon majors in the US are likely to be replaced with events within the M25. I hope that doesn’t come across as negative, as we’re both incredibly excited for this new chapter in our lives, it’s all we think and talk about, but we’re also trying to take a pragmatic view of things.
Another staple for us is parkrun. It’s less about running and much more about catching up with friends, and we hope that we’ll be regulars again soon, zipping around with a run-buggy.
When Jordan is ready to run again, and take on events I want her to be able to tackle the sort of challenges she did before – she’s a much more talented and accomplished runner than I, and I want us to find a solution so she can win ultra marathons in the desert again.
So, it might sound like we have a plan, but we know we’re a touch naive – there’s so much we’re yet to learn and an awful lot of unknowns. Akin to a marathon plan, we’re just ticking off the days, enjoying the process and equal parts nervous and excited.
To preface my thoughts, with my Son (our first born), I struggled to find time for anything other than being a parent and work. I retired from playing rugby and went from being an athletic sportsman to 21.5st and getting out of breath walking up stairs. By time my daughter was born I started to seek something better.
- Its incredibly difficult with kids, particularly newborns and you shouldn’t ever feel guilty or pressurised into running or not, whatever you instinctively decide to do is usually best.
- You should not feel guilty in any way about looking after your own health. But like on an airline you need to put your mask on first to be alive to help others. By running and looking after your health you are prolonging your life, think about the investment in the future and time with your grand kids etc…
- People (your kids) learn by seeing, copying and experiencing this, let them be around healthy active parents and they are infinitely more likely to become healthy active children and adults. Remember: ‘No one is ever inspired to be active by someone sat on the couch’.
- With any babies around you’ll have to juggle lots either way but finding time to run can be the hardest. For me routine was key. Run commutes became a vital way of getting the miles in. I got up early to get runs in, went out late at night. Funny thing is, doing more exercise resulted in me having more energy the rest of the time and able to sleep less to the point where, my parenting hours and quality improved. So slightly counter intuitively finding time to exercise can buy more time and quality.
Having kids is tough and there is no magic answer but don’t be frightened to take help from others and looking after yourself isn’t inherently selfish, in fact it’s vital.
Toby was my final pregnancy and the ONLY pregnancy I ran throughout. With the other three, I hadn’t even started running so this was experimental for me too. Looking back at how it has helped me, I wish I had run whilst pregnant with the others too.
I ran until 38 weeks pregnant and began running again 4 weeks post natal. Whilst breastfeeding and sleepless nights it wasn’t easy but I only did what worked. Usually a gentle shuffle around the lake by me for 30 minutes three times a week at first. Then mileage generally increased.
After having Toby my body seemed to heal quicker. Everything went back into place. Apart from carrying more weight, naturally. Running was so much easier not having a bump! I think running throughout pregnancy was the reason why I got back into it so easily.
My husband is extremely supportive so we ‘tag team’ a lot and it’s the only way things work really. He knew I ran for my sanity mostly and THAT was important to me. So we would have a loose schedule as to when I wanted to go for a run, providing it fitted around his work and he would take over the little ones then.
I ran the Severn Bridge Half Marathon 6 weeks after Toby… it was soaking wet, pouring with rain the entire way and an awful hill in the middle but I loved it and it only fueled my fire to sign up for a marathon.
Toby was 6 months when I started my training so things were a bit easier and in more of a routine. With marathon training being so time consuming, I made sure I went out early in the morning before anyone was up to fit my training in.
Make time for YOU. Even if it’s early hours in the morning when everybody sleeps or at night… because you will be grateful for that headspace. When you’re tired rest… it took a lot for me to accept when I wasn’t where I wanted to be with running. IT WILL ALWAYS BE THERE.
Take all the quality time you have and need with your little ones as they grow too fast and the time is so precious and we both know you don’t get it back!!!! Run in the down time, plan your runs loosely and if they don’t work, they don’t work!!!
When I became a mummy. Especially on my fourth. I didn’t want to be JUST a mummy to them, I still have dreams to chase. I want them to be proud of me and prove it’s never too late to reach those goals. I didn’t want to be selfish, so I went with the flow and accepted a lot of things weren’t going to be easy.
But there is no better feeling than crossing that finish line and having them there to hold you and cheer you.
That’s why I do it. So they can be proud of me and so that they too can believe in themselves and achieve their dreams.
I must have heard it a dozen times at least in the months leading up to the birth of my son, Ezra: “Well, that’s the end of your running, then.” I was determined to make sure that wasn’t the case.
I knew my lifestyle would change like never before but, on the back of a successful couple of years in which I ran personal bests over 10k and half marathon and made my marathon debut, I wanted to kick on.
But I knew I had to be open minded about things in the initial months.
Previously I have been wedded to plans – a run or a session on certain days or certain times. One of the go-to lines of my coach, Steve Shaw, is ‘just because it is, doesn’t mean it has to be’. So I knew in the first few months of fatherhood especially, I had to cope with adapting my plans, often at short notice.
I quickly learnt to train around Ezra’s routine – or as much of a routine as a newborn can have. My morning run is done before he wakes up on a morning and my evening session is done when he’s settled down for the night and gone to sleep. What I didn’t want to do was lose any of the precious time I have with Ezra during the day. Because of the covid circumstances, I have been working from home so feel blessed to have spent so much time with him in his first five months. And to have the support of my partner, Aylish.
My training load will increase at the back end of this year and into next year, with London Marathon my first target, but I’ll always keep a balance at the forefront of my thoughts.
I feel more driven than ever to make the most of the coming years, particularly over marathon, but my training isn’t purely motivated by performance. For me, the best way to start any day is to go and run, and I hope I’m always able to do that. It sets me up for a productive day – at work, and of course as a dad.
I’ve never lacked drive but now my motivation is more important than ever before – to be a good role model.
Running has given me so much: it keeps me fit, active, alert, disciplined and has taught me the importance of patience – that success doesn’t come overnight but hard work reaps rewards.
And most importantly, I love it. The bottom line is, it’s important to do things you enjoy.
My priority is Ezra, but running can help to set an example that will stand him in good stead for the future.
It’s hard to put into words just how important running is to me. My main reason for heading out, sun, rain, hail… whatever the weather, is that my children grow up knowing about the sacrifices that you need to make to keep fit and active and to see the importance of doing so. Personal fitness of mind and body is also incredibly important to me, and the bling after running an event always hangs proudly.
Balance though, is everything. And having children provides a completely different challenge to that what I faced previously when it came to running. Now, there are little people that rely on me; on my help, my comfort, my time. Having one child transformed my outlook; having two shifted it into another place completely. Add into the mix the need to support my wife and share the numerous responsibilities that having children brings, and taking time out to go on a run beyond 45 minutes isn’t easy. Nor should it be; family come first and letting running take a back step is absolutely necessary.
As such, my running has really relaxed since April 2019 when I ran the London Marathon. With some injuries that I have sustained as well, changing jobs, home renovation and family life, something has had to give, and although I have put on some weight and lost my fitness, I came to realise some time ago that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. This is a stage; it will pass; I will get it back, but I want to be the best dad I can be, and that starts with giving my time. Ultimately, I want to spend time with my family.
For now, I find that the best time to run; for my family to ensure that I don’t miss out on time with them, and for myself and the way in which my body responds to exercise, is first thing in the morning. I wake up, pack my bag for the day, drive to work and run from there. It also allows me to miss the rush hour traffic so whilst I don’t have many opportunities to sleep in, I spend less time behind the wheel. Probably around 2 1/2 hours a week.
I also try to avoid long runs at the weekend. I often see on social media, some fantastic running by people in training and the weekends is where they are able to fit their long runs in. It just isn’t something that works for me. Now and again; but not every week, and certainly not when there are plans for the day ahead with the family. The last thing I want them to feel like is that they are second on my priority list after running so I go when it only interferes with my own time.
But, sometimes it doesn’t work out. Something comes up and although I could, I chose not to go, and to focus on being a dad.
I am a dad first. Running; well there’s always tomorrow.
For me, I quickly realised what was important and made sacrifices so I could run. I sacrificed late night TV so I could run early before Avery woke up.
The most important thing about becoming a parent is working together so treat your partner to lie ins and free time to do what she loves because running can be a time consuming hobby.
Finally, involve your family in your running. Buy a running buggy, run at parkrun and then have breakfast together. It’ll teach your children the importance of exercise and family time.
It’s really true what they say, when people say “they slept like a baby”, they have never had a newborn.
I was lucky enough to keep running throughout my pregnancy with no problems up until 31 weeks where it just became uncomfortable. Fast forward 7 weeks and we welcomed our little boy into the world.
When I was asked how do I balance running with family life, the truth is, I’m still working on that. I’ve had a long physical recovery and whilst I managed to put my trainers on 6 weeks post natal, running has definitely taken a back seat at the moment.
16 weeks later and I think I’ve managed to get out for 4 runs in total since his arrival. Instead, I’ve been focusing on eating three meals a day, hydrating myself and sleeping when I can… those that have babies with colic and reflux will know that sleep is in short supply. It is only now that my baby is independent enough for me to leave him for short bursts of time and is in bed for 7pm.
It is now that I am using this time to focus on myself, get some headspace and put my trainers on. For the time being, running is my meditation and relaxation time, the races and personal bests can wait.
My advice is to go with the flow, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get out for a run, run a certain distance or hit a certain pace. Babies throw all sense of routine up into the air and once you start to follow their lead, I’ve found this takes the pressure away.
Enjoy your baby as they are only small for such a short period of time, whereas there is a lifetime of running to be had and in my case, that can wait.
So there we have it. 9 different running stories and perspectives. I hope these inspiring mums & dads have given you some value and ideas on how to return to the running as a new parent.
There is no right answer. Everybody is different and that is why it is important to find what works best for you.
There are nuggets of gold and wisdom from each of these parents, I will look to incorporate into my running future.
I have already started to investigate the world of the running buggy and eagerly anticipating the return of parkrun and junior parkrun; to share the experience and enjoy together with my family.
The common thread among all of the featured parents is a love for running and a desire to be the best parent and role model for their children.
Were you inspired by these amazing mums and dads? What resonated with you and was the most helpful advice?
I love running stories, please share your journey in the comments…